Thursday, September 15, 2011

This trip is done

The Berkshires in Massachusetts
Hazy and humid at the Cape Cod Canal

Smile at the canal

My trip has finished. I crossed the Cape Cod Canal yesterday at sunset. It was great to breathe the salt air. Yoko stood up and looked out the window when she smelled it, paws on the arm rest. She knew we were here, and we got out at the canal-side rest area. Soon after that, I was on my way to see my husband for dinner in Hyannis. Tomorrow, I’ll see the Cape Cod grandkids and so many more people who I have missed during my time away. I am sad that our house in Montana is now on the market, and I wish I would stop dreaming about it at night. New doors will open, a new home will be found. But my luxurious straight-line thinking of driving will now come to an end, and the crazy-quilt pattern of cobbling together a day begins. Stuff to unpack, appointments to be made,  people to see, and a home to be found and furnished.
I drove from the Finger Lakes area in New York to Cape Cod in one day. . . not unheard of, but it was my second 500 mile day. You have traveled over 2800 miles with me. What do I have to say about the state of our union after having driven over the northern tier of it?  Our small cities have lost a lot of people. Several of the places I stayed along the way seemed deserted, like Sheridan on the Missouri River.  Many of our farms have been bought out by huge profit seeking agro companies, companies that are traded on the stock exchange.  There are not as many people traveling from one state to another as there used to be. Trucks carry our produce, and diesel fuel is up around $4.15 a gallon.  Look for everything to be more expensive. A lot of our country is in a state of emergency. . . floods from tropical storms, and before that (June) many areas flooded due to a large snow load. . . and of course they have not yet recovered. Fires. . . big ones. . . AZ, CA, and now Texas. I can’t imagine anyone, Tea Party or not, saying to the federal government, no, don’t give us any relief money. We are going to take care of it ourselves. ie:  I am so very sick of tea party hypocrites. They couldn’t live in the world they are asking for.
Speaking of floods:  was thinking of stopping to see a relative of mine in Colrain, Massachusetts as I came through the Berkshires. But her house was one of those inundated, and she lost everything. Best not to stop by today.  The rain came down, and the floods came up.  She is back in her house after spending a week in the shelter, but it stinks, and she is cleaning up the grime, mud and trash. FEMA has inspected, and she definitely qualifies for help, but no help yet. HazMat came and did an clean-up of her basement, her oil tank popped and leaked all over the basement. She’s lost everything. . . clothing, food in the freezer, appliances, furniture. Has to start again. Her grown kids have to work and cannot help her. They are not nearby. This is the new American retirement, it seems. Emergencies everywhere that drain every ounce of energy and reserve. I’m sending her a care package, she deserves it.
I loved the gentle hills of upper state New York, and the more pronounced peaks of the Berkshires as I zoomed along. I do miss my Montana giant mountains, but it was nice to enter Massachusetts and then drive under the Appalachian trail on the turnpike. And before I knew it, I was at the Canal. And then drinking a margarita with my hubby. So all is well. I have completed my travels, but not my journey. Still much to discover and strive to achieve. Thank you for traveling with me, my friends.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

500 miles today, day 6

Cleveland, Ohio 

The speed limit on I-80.  My car gets 35 mpg at this speed.  

Ohio's corporate looking rest areas. . . on I 80.

So I am in New York.  I've gone from Elkhart, Indiana across several states. .  .Ohio, the little panhandle of Penn., and half way across New York, all in one day.  It took me 2 days to get across Montana, and another 2 to cross S. Dakota. I hope all the folks from the east get to go west sometime and understand the expansive space out there. Less stress. It was a farm-y trip through Indiana and into Ohio until I reached the urban areas. Ohio's rest area building were ultra modern, even in farm county. No trees in the parking lots. Shade is nice. . . I think there should be trees in rest area parking lots.

Leaving Pennsylvania and entering New York, I passed all the vineyards again, as in June, but this time the vineyards were heavy with grapes. Lots of wind today. . . the triple trailer trucks were swaying in the wind like boxcars. . . a bit scary to pass one.

Immediately, there is a difference with drivers. . . I noticed it in Ohio.  People don't naturally move over on the highway when there is someone in the breakdown lane, or when a car comes off the entrance ramp. OK, I'm back east. Gotta watch it. I did the speed limit and had people on my tail impatient with me that I wasn't going faster.  In the construction zones (miles of construction through Ohio and New York) where the speed limit is lower and enforced with double fines, I didn't see many drivers who cared. Saw many people pulled over for speeding, and the rest of the traffic just sped by. The highways around Cleveland were nutty, and I'm back!

Staying at the same Super 8 in the Finger Lakes region of New York where I stayed on the way out west in June. Yoko is tired, I am tired. Not too entertaining, are we? Oh! Rain!  I had the first raindrops fall on my car today. The last hour of my ride was wet. And for once I finished the day with no bugs on the windshield. Thank you, rain.

Day 5, crossed the Mississippi

Rollin on the river...

from day 4: the corn palace in Mitchell.  Had to get it up for you!

Day 5
Yoko and I are in a Red Roof Inn in Elkheart, Indiana.  Near Notre Dame. I left the amazingly modern agro-town of Ceder Falls, Iowa this morning. Nice people at the desk of the American Inn gave me directions to find Waterloo, and then to get on to the right highway for eventual intersection with I-80.  The sun was out, but the sky was white with haze, rather than my western blue I am so used to. Have to let that go. This was all farm country.  Big old ancient barns had fallen in and not been taken care of or removed. Apparently big agro companies have bought all the land and they don’t give a rat’s butt about the old barns. Corn everywhere, but not harvested yet. Not as tall as it should have been, not as tall as corn used to grow in my grandfather’s field in Pepperell, MA. I suspect it is all for ethanol rather than feeding the starving peoples of the world, or even for feeding chickens. Big tall deciduous trees on the side of the road and dividing farms. The leaves are all still green, but the goldenrod on the side of the road is bright yellow.  Fall is coming.
Made it to Interstate 80 in a few hours, and then, sure enough, what a wonderful way to avoid Chicago.  I was traveling the wrong way on the highway to get into Iowa 80’s  “World’s Largest Truck Stop.”  I looked over at it and saw laundry mats, restaurants, truck washes, scales, you name it. Trucker heaven.  I went over the Mississippi River and into Illinois (200 miles to Chicago) before I could get a shot with my camera, so pulled over to the rest area on the other side of it, and from way up on that hill took a weak picture looking back at it. To commemorate the moment, I let Yoko run around under a huge oak tree.  There were some acorns on the ground, so I picked one up and put it in my pocket. I decided to bring it home and plant it and name the new oak tree my Mississippi Oak. Something to nurture.Had a rough morning this morning, the leg did not want to work, so had to load the car up on crutches. That is hard. Try it for kicks, You’ll discover a well of gratefulness around the fact that you can walk normally and carry things(if you can). I had three steps to go up and down this morning at the American Inn, on crutches with suitcase, medicine bag, dog bag, dog on leash, computer bag and toiletries bag. It took three trips. When I was done, I was already tired, so needless to say, got off to a slow start this morning, and only did a little over 300 miles today, so that is why I decided to plant an acorn.  I need a project that will keep me grounded.
I passed an interesting sign at Exit 45, “Birthplace of President Ronald Reagan.”  I never knew he was born in Illinois. About a hundred years ago, now. He’d have loved the windmills.  So, Chicago. . . just hit the southern tip of it, avoided all the horrible toll booths that are arranged up around the west side of the lake. Trick toll booths, I should say-  with no warning, you are supposed to take a jug handle if you are paying coin and don’t have a Chicago toll booth pass. I wonder if an EZ pass would work. Oh well, avoided what drove me nuts on the way out west. And really liked what I saw in Iowa, the farm scenes were pretty. Had always missed Iowa before by driving further north. I was as excited by the big wind farms in the cornfields as a little kid looking at a pinwheel display, especially at that wonderful simultaneous sunset/moonrise that happened last night with all the windmills turning. Mesmerizing.So here I am. . . in my Red Roof Inn. . . the old fashioned kind which I love with no internal halls to drag the suitcase down, the car is parked right outside my door. What is wrong with that?  I will hear it if anyone tries to break into my car, and I will activate the panic button on my key fob and scare the be-jesus out of them. It could be kind of fun. But no, I am not wishing for it.
I think I will make Cape Cod by Thursday.  I could push for late Wednesday night, by then I’ll arrive all bedraggled, and why do that?  So sorry the picture thing-y is not working well because I have taken so many for you cannot show them.  Thank you for reading. 
Mississippi River there in the background, bridge to the left. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 4

Joy joy, I feel like I hit the jackpot.  I found a hotel room that has a handi-capped shower and allows dogs. For two days, I only found the dog hotel. So no shower. Sponge baths. But tonighte, I am at the American Inn in Ceder Falls, Iowa. . . and I like it.

Drove more than 400 miles today, so went from the Missouri River in South Dakota (I-90) to Route 35 south in Minnesota, banged a right, and headed south for I-80, which I will take around Chicago. Rather than doing Wisconsin and then hitting all that congestion when you come down from the north. I hope my plan works. .  .I just want a smooth ride this time. We'll see.

East of the Missouri. . . much more muggy, more civilization, more overpasses, more farms rather than ranches. And corn. I got to Mitchell, and had to get off the highway to view the one and only corn palace in the world. It is really a work of art. I've stopped before (yes, with my hubby), but had to see it again. They change the corn and change the pictures. Birds love that corn, I think. What a giant bird feeder! I am having a LOT of trouble uploading pictures onto the blogger site lately, but I will not post this until I have succeeded. Because you must see the corn palace. Nice town, Mitchell. I could live there.

OK, I give up. Picasa, you have failed me miserably for days.  Here is the link so you can see the corn palace:
Scroll to the bottom and see it in all its golden glory. 

I'm realizing one of the things I like about driving through the west is that I'm so off the grid. No power lines, and lots of time, no cell phone reception. Just me and two strips of pavement over the big wide surface of the earth. Cattle don't smell because they have so much room. Well, I'm back. When I came over the Minnesota line, I started noticing the most obnoxious power lines, they looked like giant robots holding the lines. But, hey, my hands are not clean. I use electric power every day. And then, the reason for the powerlines came into view. . .miles and miles of windfarm, over miles and miles of farmland. It is beautiful to see white windmills turning with the breeze. Just the slightest breeze today, and those pin-wheels were making power!

Minnesota: What geeky power lines, I thought.

the reason for the power lines way out in the country, MN

When I turned out of Minnesota into Iowa, same thing!  And when the harvest moon came up, me heading south, I had the sunset to my rght and the moonrise to my left. with a beautiful pastel pastoral farmland background. America is big and beautiful.  So glad I'm here in America. Heard a lot about 9/11/01 today, as I am sure you did. Talked to several of the people I spent time with on that day. Ten years. A long time to be at war. when will it ever end?
So, sorry, this blog entry is boring, the pictures just won't post. How disappointing for me. . . I'd love to show you where I've been. Oh well.  Technology. . . you love it and you hate it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 3, South Dakota

Love the curves of I-90 in South Dakota     

Near the Badlands turn-off,  SD  

Oh, gosh, we found some shade!  

Coming into the farmlands from the wild grasslands

I am getting a little tired. Made it into South Dakota, but did not make it out. 346 miles, five and a half hours of driving. Crossed the time zone line though, and entered Central Time from Mountain Time (in Murdo, South Dakota), so I lost an hour. Still I did pretty well for a slow one-legged grandmother with an elderly dog. Pretty darn well. The hardest part of the day is the getting going and the getting done. It is very challenging to hump in the luggage, the dog, the dog stuff, and the computer. And the leg stuff. Crutches are necessary to hop around the motel room once the leg comes off at the end of the day, which it must. Just to snazzy life up a bit, I have a new tattoo on my prosthesis leg. A black butterfly.  Yes, black can be grim, but butterflies symbolize the transformation that has occurred.  
So, I left Gillette, Wyoming, and passed what looked like a seam of a coal mine on the north of the highway, and a long line of coal cars on the railroad tracks to the south. Here and there in Wyoming, cute little oil wells in the cattle fields. Horses out grazing. Saw more wonderful big wide skies, open road, very little traffic, and every now and then, a town. Signs for the way to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Statue, and the Devil’s Tower (Exit 153).  I did not turn down these roads, I visited these wonderful places in 2006 with my hubby.  Seeing them again without him would just make me wish he was with me, so I flew by with good memories. I didn’t really mind the country, did not find it monotonous, in fact, found it calming and peaceful and wonderful and rare. Was curious about Exit 205, because down that road was “A National Historic Place, Ranch A.” Would have liked to see that, but Yoko would have cooked in the car.  She saves me lots of time and money, because I cannot leave her in the car.  There were 12 foot high snow drift fences at the side of the road. . . I can just imagine what winter must be like here. Every now and then there was a sin that said, “if yellow lights are blinking, then turn back into (the last town).”  They have to close the highway, apparently, for blizzards. Why not?
When I got to South Dakota, the Indian heritage was emphasized at the rest stops with a huge tipi pole sculpture. But then again, it looked like an empty lodge. The information stands were staffed and friendly.  I’m still on 1-90, haven’t left it. Speed limit is still 75. Have seen just a few police cars.  And just one accident. . . a truck that jackknifed it’s camper trailer. No one hurt.
The biggest congestion I saw was around Rapid City, South Dakota, and Ellsworth Airbase. . . billboards, chain fast foods, malls, subdivisions, new construction!! OMG! But then it thinned out again to pure country again. I feel such relief when in very rural setting! I have become such a country girl, I don’t know how I’ll handle gridlock again.
I started seeing signs for a drug store, and the billboards continued for miles. Wall Drug. Of course, I swung into Hall to see what the heck this was all about, and parked Yoko in the shade of a building. I went in and peeked around for ten minutes, and I have to say, it’s the best tourist trap I’ve seen for years.  I think Disney based some of their animations on what goes on at the Wall Drug.  I got back to the car before Yoko had a chance to get hot, and headed back to the highway. I saw the exit for the “Badland Scenic Loop”. . . no mention of how many hours it takes (half a day!) and how many miles. . . many!  Another adventure Jim and I and Yoko had in 2007.
Next, drove through the area where the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands wave in the wind. Soon after that, the 1800’s town, which I think was the set for Dances With Wolves. (Exit 170) There are spotty herds of beef cattle out here, so don’t know how they filmed without getting in a line of barbed wire or a black beef cow. And then, through Murdo, and Yoko and I stopped at a rest area where the cottonwood trees provided some of the only shade we’ve experienced out here at a rest area.  I called ahead and made a reservation at the Best Western in Chamberlain.  Now the terrain is more rolling and cultivated, lots of huge round hale bales everywhere. Property broken into farms.  Big tractors working in the hay fields. And . . . how wonderful! I didn’t realize it, looking at my tiny map, but I got to cross the Missouri River into Chamberlain, and it’s not flooding, as it was in July when I crossed it further north. So good to see the river. I have finally torn myself away from Montana, and I think in a few days, I’ll really be close to my Cape Cod stomping grounds. Help me avoid the flooding in PA, NY, CT, etc. I know it’s been a rough few weeks for the Northeast, and here I come!  And I like this vintage Best Western, it is right near the river in town. I went back to the Pizza Hut that sits of the best piece of real estate in the area and looks over the Missouri River Bridge. What a sunset. Dinner with a view for less than $10, and Yoko in the cooling night air in the car. Everything’s fine. 

east side of the Missouri River at Chamberlain, SD

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Day 2, September 10, 2011

Made it to Wyoming, but would still be in Montana if I had not swung south.
before Wyoming,  the cattle trucks in Billings ready to go
Red pavement once in Wyoming!

Sorry, will post more pics later. Internet free here at the Motel 6 in Gillette City, Wyoming, but not steady. . .

Day two, September 10, 2011

I must write at the end of every day, because I can barely remember the beginning of it when I cover so many miles. And here I am, in a Motel 6 with city trappings and an A/C, and it seems surreal that I traversed the big wide west from Bozeman, MT to Gillette, WY.  But I did. We did, Yoko and I.
I actually stayed in Belgrade, MT, which is near Bozeman.  Had a very comfortable bed with very smooth cotton sheets at the Quality Inn, but I woke up dozens of times. Too tired, I guess, to sleep. Yoko snored.
When I left, I headed for Livingstone, and pulled in to town off the Interstate. I had heard that this town is a place where writers go to write. And I suppose they do.  I like the views on the outskirts of town, and the town itself seems a little quiet. I like a town to be rip roaring busy, and the country to be quiet. So if I am going to write in a town, it must be very busy. Livingstone was not busy this morning. But, it was a nice town. I got back on the road.
I love the big spaces, I love to drive. I am having a hard time walking right now, so driving is something I can do well. As soon as I get to New England, have to see my prosthesis guy for some adjustments. But sitting on my butt and driving and cruise control on the speed limit (75 mph) and snapping pictures blindly out the windows to see what I’ll get. . . I can do that.
Billings is industrial and important, but not pretty. Forgive me, I did not stop to take pictures. I shot one picture and that is of a yard full of stock trucks. . . the trucks that haul cattle. Your future hamburgers. More on that later.  The Yellowstone River ran beside the highway for quite awhile, so beautiful.

Soon I headed south into Custer country, the reservation of the Crow. Zoomed by all the hills and valleys where Indian battles were once fought fiercely with war horses. Now horses are trailered up the highways at 75 mph. I loved the scenery, had to pull over several times just to look. The Little Bighorn River was now the waterway. Hardly any people at all for miles and miles, and it seems like you can see for a hundred miles from the tops of the ranges I’m passing over.  Not much traffic at all on the highway.
And then, into Wyoming.  The road suddenly turned red, no kidding. Red pavement. And I had a little relationship going with a cattle hauling truck.  Those holes in the side of the truck? I learned what comes out of them.  Cattle get the runs on the way to the stockyards. I don’t blame them. But I didn’t much like it on my windshield. I let the truck get way ahead of me, but then would pass it again on the long hills up the mountains. And so, again, I think I’ll stop eating beef. I know too much.
And now, here I am in Razor City. No, they do not make razor blades, but since the name of the little city, which has everything from Swim gyms to water slides to sports parks . . . you name it. . . since the name of the city is Gillette, they call it Razor City. A joke the girl at the front desk tells me. Or maybe she’s pulling my leg, alien that I am.
Yoko was stinky, so I gave her a bath in the bathtub with shampoo. Thank you Motel 6. She smells so much better now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Shove off on Sept 8

Where I get to by the end of the day. . . east side of Rockies

My neighbor comes over to help me pack the Elantra in the morning

Oh, will miss my house!
This house is just right for me. Why can't I fly it to Cape Cod?

Flathead Lake is hazy today

The best cherries come from these orchards in Montana

Today was shove off day. I thought it would be yesterday, but there was just far too much to get done before leaving the Montana home base.  Which is now for sale.  The word emotional would not convey the way I felt as I drove away. Psychically Numb would perhaps be the words.  So much hard work for so long to de-clutter and pack, and then this morning, my wonderful next door neighbor came over to help me shrink an SUV-sized-luggage-load down to the volume that could actually fit into my little new (to me) car.
And then I was off. Well, not quite, Yoko and I stopped to get an oil change. You cannot travel 2800 miles without attending to oil, tire pressure and wiper fluid. And so, by noon, we were leaving Bigfork.  Slowly.  I had to stop several time to take pictures of the beautiful Flathead Lake, hazy today because of various wildfires all over Montana. I went down the east side of the lake, the scenic cliff-hugger side, the side that says Montana rather than Interstate. The cherry orchids were beautiful, as always, with full green foliage, but pretty well picked by now. I did not stop for cherries. I’ve eaten so many this summer.
And then we entered  the Flathead Indian reservation, and beyond that, the south end of the massive Flathead Lake and onto the Interstate 93.  Not too worry, that is one of the most beautiful Interstates in the country. The speed limits in the reservation are to be strictly adhered to, which I did. I was a little bummed out when I got to the Native American Museum I wanted to check out. It was hot and not a speck of shade in the parking lot, so no way. Could not leave Yoko in the car for that. So, not this time. We drove along the Mission Mountain range, past the Bison Range (bison were hiding) and down to Missoula. VERY smoky in Missoula due to nearby wildfires.
And then we got onto the east/west Interstate that would take us across the state and over the Continental Divide. . . and across most of the country. . . I-90. 
The day was perfect, although hazy. Most of the smoke behind us, but a lot of the west is on fire right now, so hazy. And what views. My mind is thirsty for such wide open vistas having mostly stayed in my house all summer, doing inner mental excavation via stuff sorting. God, I’ve relived every year of my life and my kids’ lives this summer, as well as revisited all my accomplishments and failures, short-comings and strengths. Conclusion: I am an OK person, but I need to work on letting go.  Too much stuff. Still.  I sent 40 boxes via moving truck ahead of me to Cape Cod. Value: nothing to anyone else. 
So the car ride back to Massachusetts is so important, a jet ride just would not allow me the time to process and re-enter the state in any kind of acceptable shape. The views of this country will help me do that. What a country we live in. If you’ve never been to Montana, just come drive around for a few weeks. It is amazing. We stopped at the top of the Continental Divide so we could pee.  Unfortunately the human facilities were padlocked (hey!) so I had to hold it till the next truck stop, but Yoko got to pee. Her water will flow east and west from the top of the divide.
I will let the pictures here tell the rest of the story of the day. I end up near Yellowstone Park in Belgrade. Yoko and I have a nice room. This Quality Inn allows dogs. She is snoring now. So, on my way away from one set of relatives and towards the other. Amazing. Who knew my two kids would live 2800 miles apart? And that my husband would work back in Massachusetts after we made the big move west?  Life gives you lots of surprises. It's never boring. 
Route 35, the cliff hugger road that travels the east side of the Flathead Lake
Yoko tries to get out at every stop.

We miss is this time, too hot for Yoko to stay in car. Love the language! Salish.  

weird rocks at the top

How did the covered wagons get through?
The east (wheat) side of Montana before me